Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Working With Free Stuff

Wow! I have to apologize for neglecting the blog for so long. Things have been slightly hectic lately. I have recently started a new position as a network administrator and IT consultant and have been busy getting my feet wet in that role.

Enough of my excuses!

Anyway, I have always been intrigued by the open source market. now I realize that the term open source does not equal free but certainly this is the way that we have come to use the term. When someone says "open source" they mean that it is free as opposed to referring to the fact that one has access to the source code for their own modifications. OK - I will admit that I am guilty of using the term that way myself - it would seem that the terms open source and free have become somewhat synonymous.

I recently decided to install Fedora 11 on an old desktop I had at the house as a means of testing how well it might work for a home computer. So far I have been pleased with how well it seems to work. That being said, it was not easy to get set up. While much of the software was pre-installed like Open Office, Evolution Mail, Totem, and Rhythmbox - any additional things to install were a bit more complicated than the standard Windows install package. For example, installing Flash player involved way more than clicking 'Download and Install'. It meant using the command line to login as root and type in additional instructions to complete the work. Certainly not a task for the average home user.

What I really like though, is that it works. The desktop environment is sharp looking and easy to navigate. I can browse the net, play CDs and movies, enjoy a game or two on Facebook, and open files created with Office 2007. If someone handed me a computer that was completely configured with all the necessities, all open source, I could still get the job done.

The question is - What is the potential for free and open source computing in our K-12 schools? Will the state of the economy and tight budgets have more IT staff thinking about these alternatives? What types of open source software are you using in your districts? I would love to hear more.